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Work continues near sinkhole that swallowed man

Jeremy Bush places flowers and a stuffed animal at a makeshift memorial in front of a home where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom late Thursday evening and swallowed his brother Jeffrey in Seffner, Fla. on Saturday, March 2, 2013. Jeffrey Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Jeremy Bush places flowers and a stuffed animal at a makeshift memorial in front of a home where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom late Thursday evening and swallowed his brother Jeffrey in Seffner, Fla. on Saturday, March 2, 2013. Jeffrey Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

In this undated photo released by Jeremy Bush, shows his brother Jeff Bush. Jeremy Bush heard a loud crash and screaming coming from his brother’s room early Thursday, March 1, 2013 in Seffner, Fla. A large sinkhole opened under Jeff’s bedroom and he disappeared together with most of the bedroom furniture. Jeremy jumped into the hole and was quickly up to his neck in dirt. Jeff is presumed dead. (AP Photo/Jeremy Bush, HO)

Brenda Bush is escorted by a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy as she places flowers, Saturday, March 2, 2013, at a makeshift memorial in front of a home where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom late Thursday evening and swallowed her son Jeffrey in Seffner, Fla. Jeffrey Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

An engineer, tethered with a safety line, walks in front of a home where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom late Thursday evening and swallowed a man in Seffner, Fla. on Saturday, March 2, 2013. Jeffrey Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Engineers talk in front of a home, where a sinkhole opened up underneath a bedroom late Thursday evening and swallowed a man, in Seffner, Fla. on Saturday, March 2, 2013. Jeffrey Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

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SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) — Engineers worked gingerly Saturday to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing the entire house could eventually succumb to the unstable ground.

It could be days before officials decide whether they will attempt to recover Jeff Bush’s body, and they were still trying Saturday to determine the extent of the sinkhole network and what kind of work might be safe. As the sinkhole grows, it may pose further risk to the subdivision and its homes.

Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night in Seffner — a suburb of 8,000 people 15 miles east of downtown Tampa — when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house escape unharmed.

Because of Florida’s unique geography, experts say sinkholes are common across the state, with thousands erupting each year. Most are small, though, and deaths rarely occur.

“There’s hardly a place in Florida that’s immune to sinkholes,” said Sandy Nettles, a geologist. “There’s no way of ever predicting where a sinkhole is going to occur.”

Florida is prone because it sits on limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water. A layer of clay is on top of the limestone. The clay is thicker in some locations — including the area where Bush became a victim — making them even more prone to sinkholes.

Most are small, like one that was found Saturday morning in Largo, some 35 miles away from where the Seffner sinkhole. The Largo sinkhole, about 10 feet long and several feet wide, was discovered in a mall parking lot. Such discoveries are common throughout the year in Florida, though some factors — such as drought and development — can exacerbate the development, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Still, it’s unclear what, if anything, caused the Seffner sinkhole.

“The condition that caused that sinkhole could have started a million years ago,” Nettles said.

On Saturday, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Ronnie Rivera said one of the homes next door to the Bush house also was compromised by the sinkhole, as determined through testing. The family, which had evacuated Friday, was allowed to go inside for about a half-hour to gathering belongings, Rivera said. The family was outside, crying and organizing boxes.

Engineers had been testing since 7 a.m. Saturday. By 10 a.m., officials moved media crews farther away from the Bush house so experts could perform tests on the home across the street.

Experts spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running tests — while acknowledging that the entire lot where Bush lay entombed was dangerous. On Saturday, officials were still not allowing anyone in the Bush home.

Jeremy Bush, who tried to rescue his brother when the earth opened, lay flowers and a stuffed lamb near the house Saturday morning and wept.

He said someone came to his home in the Tampa suburb of about 8,000 people a couple of months ago to check for sinkholes and other issues, apparently for insurance purposes, but found nothing wrong. State law requires home insurers to provide coverage against sinkholes.

“And a couple of months later, my brother dies. In a sinkhole,” Bush said Friday.

The sinkhole, estimated at 20 feet across and 20 feet deep, caused the home’s concrete floor to cave in around 11 p.m. Thursday as everyone in the Tampa-area house was turning in for the night. It gave way with a loud crash that sounded like a car hitting the house and brought Jeremy Bush running.

Engineers said they may have to demolish the small house, even though from the outside there appeared to be nothing wrong with the four-bedroom, concrete-wall structure, built in 1974.

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Follow Lush at www.twitter.com/tamaralush

Online: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/feedback/faq.htm(hash)17

www.firefighter-relief.com

Associated Press


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